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Best cafes and coffee shops in London, Timberyard Seven Dials
© Jael Marschner

London’s best coffee shops

Craving that caffeinated kick? Or just after a smoothie? Read on for the capital's best coffee shops

Written by
Time Out London Food & Drink
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Londoners love coffee. Whether it's a flat white or a nitro-brew, the capital's cafés and coffee shops are pumping out caffeine-laden cups across the city. There are plenty of spots for specialty drinks too, like chai, turmeric or matcha lattes. Or, on the decaf side, there are cold-pressed juices, smoothies and, even, vegan coffee joints. So, read on for our top picks of London’s best coffee shops. 

London’s best coffee shops

39 Steps Coffee Haus
  • Restaurants
  • Coffeeshops
  • Soho
  • price 1 of 4

Located in the heart of Soho, this corner coffee shop takes its caffeine very seriously. If it’s coffee-based, you’ll find it here: standard flat whites, lattes and cortados, plus more offbeat options including ‘coffee tonics’ (espresso with tonic), iced americanos, thick cold coffee freakshakes and even a thirst-quenching coffee cherry soda. The food is more of a muddle, but the drinks are indisputably excellent and there’s a cosy charm about the place.

Allpress Espresso
  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Shoreditch

Enduringly popular for its unhurried atmosphere, lovely service and great food, Allpress Espresso (aka the Redchurch Espresso Bar) also makes terrific coffee – from textbook espresso-based brews to various filter concoctions. Outstanding baked goods and imaginative sandwiches add to the all-round appeal of this winning corner spot, making it a fixture of the Shoreditch scene. The main Allpress roastery is now housed in a big café complex spread over two floors in Dalston.

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  • Restaurants
  • Coffeeshops
  • Hammersmith

On a mission to bring some Melbourne magic to the streets of Hammersmith, this cool Antipodean café brews up some terrific stuff. Coffee comes from Square Mile and other acclaimed guest roasters from around the globe, while ‘slow brews’ are produced by hand using the Japanese method. To eat, there’s a line-up of inventive Aussie-style brunch-style food (their kimchi and cheddar toastie is a best-seller), and Antipode also looks after night-time drinkers with Aussie craft beers, natural wines and espresso martinis.

Artisan
  • Restaurants
  • Coffeeshops
  • Goldhawk Road

With branches in Ealing, Putney and East Sheen, Artisan is on the up and this Stamford Brook outlet is a credit to the neighbourhood with its pleasant vibe, enormous windows and down-home furnishings. Close your eyes and you could be in Shoreditch as you sip a V60 drip brew or a perfect espresso from Curious Roo Coffee Roasters. Food covers everything from breakfast porridge and granola to anzac biscuits and sweet treats such as rose and pistachio cake.

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  • Restaurants
  • Coffeeshops
  • City of London

Not far from the Gherkin, The Association is the gem in the City’s caffeinated crown – a superlative spot noted for its surprisingly hip industrial interiors and patterned table-tops. Coffee comes from Workshop and Square Mile (where else?), and the line-up of blends changes from week to week (see what’s on offer at the ‘brew bar’). The place is also famed for its ace pasteis de nata. There’s an offshoot on Ludgate Hill.

Attendant
  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Fitzrovia

Occupying a former men’s pissoir, Attendant’s coffee wakes you up before you go-go. Aromas of roast arabica and scented candles waft up from the subterranean cavern, which still boasts the original Victorian urinals (now used for seating). Beans are house-roasted and there are made-to-order sandwiches, hot snacks, good-looking salads and decidedly decent cakes too. Be warned – the place is tiny, and it’s regularly rammed. There are further outlets in Clerkenwell and Shoreditch.

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  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Tooting
  • price 1 of 4

A Tooting outpost of the Aussie-style café mini-chain, Brickwood has a prime pitch within SW17’s kitsch covered market. Brunch is the main event, but we love its killer sourdough toasties (the creamy, tangy four-cheese version is a must), while other prime Aussie assets include cheery service, a toe-tapping playlist and tip-top coffee (check out the nitro cold brew from Sandow’s). There are some ‘public’ picnic tables nearby if all the official slots are taken. Branches in Balham, Clapham and Streatham.

Brunswick East
  • Restaurants
  • Coffeeshops
  • Dalston

In the courtyard of Stamford Works (Dalston’s creative hub), this Aussie-owned gem mixes cosy industrial/studio vibes with a serious attitude to coffee. House beans are sourced from Alchemy, guest names appear on rotation and there’s an equally alluring Antipodean-style menu promising kimchi omelettes, vegan ‘bliss bowls’ with dukkah flatbread and suchlike – as well as avocado in abundance. Added attractions include ceramic exhibits and in-house artists’ bookstore and weekend brunch/yoga sessions for the wholesome extroverts.

 

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  • Restaurants
  • Coffeeshops
  • Holborn

A mere ten minutes’ stroll from Leather Lane’s caffeine mecca, Catalyst is a serene and stripped-back Scandi-style drop-in with all-day appeal. Coffee-wise, the owners know their stuff, there’s a Diedrich roaster in the basement and the place is stuffed with barista gadgets. There’s some decent food too (mostly veggie savouries, cakes and brunch classics). What’s more, Catalyst opens early and closes late on Thursdays and Fridays, with a fair choice of cocktails, craft beers and wines on offer.

Chief Coffee
  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Chiswick

Every London borough now seems fully caffeinated with sustainable, single-origin beans and cult blends, so any local contender needs to find a way to stand out from the crowd. Chief Coffee goes with... pinball machines. Load up on caffeine, cakes and Rinkoff ‘crodoughs’ in the ground-floor café (Workshop and Drop provide the beans) then take that chemical high downstairs to the subterranean lounge and reacquaint yourself with your ’90s self via old-school games such as Monster Bash or Cactus Canyon.

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  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • London Fields

Brown, buzzy and never overheated, Climpson’s on Broadway Market has the same qualities as its excellent flat whites, while helpful blackboard notes on the blends from its own roastery ram home the message: coffee first, conversation second. With retro cakes and avocado on sourdough also available, it’s perfect for Saturday nights and Monday mornings. Be warned that the place gets overrun on the weekends. Climpson’s also has a coffee bar on Old Spitalfields Market.

  • Restaurants
  • Coffeeshops
  • Covent Garden

Between Seven Dials (food heaven) and Leicester Square (food hell), Coffee Island is the first London outpost of a deceptively decent Greek chain with a passion for gadgets and home-barista gear. They’ve done their homework where it counts, with a range of coffees and a host of brewing variations – from Chemex and Aeropress to ‘cold drip’ and signature sips. Food runs from muffins, cakes and croissants to sandwiches, salads, charcuterie and smoked fish dishes.

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  • Restaurants
  • Coffeeshops
  • Waterloo

Even on the time warp that is Waterloo’s Lower Marsh, Coleman’s feels like a caff from another age – so embrace the quiet life and soak up the serious industrial-chic interiors (think swathes of concrete and marble). There are rustic ceramics for sale and a whole wall lined with Coleman’s coffee beans (from the owners’ Bermondsey roastery), while snacks include oatcakes with Kirkham’s Lancashire cheese and red pepper jelly. Tea and lemonade are also available.

Craft London
  • Restaurants
  • British
  • Greenwich Peninsula
  • price 4 of 4

Home-grown and home-produced is the mantra at Stevie Parle’s Greenwich shrine to all things craft. The setup includes a swish, pricey restaurant and a more affordable cocktail bar with views, but the bright ground-floor café is our favourite bit, with lunchtime salads plus sourdough breads, pizzas and cakes from the oven to go with excellent Craft-roasted coffee. There’s also a brunch menu (till 3pm) featuring classics such as shakshuka, eggs benedict and avo on toast.

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  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • City of London

Seating here is limited to just six people and it isn’t strong on comfort, but this is a City spot to cherish if you value well-curated coffee beans and expert brewing. The house espresso blend comes from Colonna, and guest roasters feature regularly (Square Mile, Tim Wendelboe, The Barn, among others). Food is simple but carefully done, with the emphasis on London-based producers. A steady stream of City workers keeps this tiny treasure buzzing with takeaway orders.

  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Holborn

DCSA now has branches all over town, but this is the stripped-back original: a place that gets rammed during the week and chills out at the weekends. All the coffee is produced at the company’s own roastery in Brighton and it’s always well made (espresso is the starting point), while the food is basic but of high quality – expect assorted sandwiches, salads and moreish baked goodies. DCSA is also an innovator when it comes to cold brews.

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  • Bloomsbury

Capacity doesn’t make it far into double digits at this small but perfectly formed shrine to straight caffeine. Choice may be limited too (artisan coffees from Caravan, teas, sandwiches, cakes and some brunch staples), but we love Bloomsbury’s Espresso Room, especially when we can sit outside in fine weather. Smiling staff show off their technical skills in the most modest way possible. ER’s flagship Holborn branch is licensed and there’s another outlet in Covent Garden.

Federation Coffee
  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Brixton

Seats with a view of Brixton’s Village Market are the ones to grab at this egalitarian corner café tucked inside the covered arcade. Federation buys its coffee beans and blends from Curve Roasters in Margate (as well as seasonal guests from further afield), and it also sells coffee-related hardware. To eat, there are breads, croissants, pastries, grilled cheese sandwiches and sweets, made by some top local producers. It’s all very neighbourly, uncomplicated and affordable.

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The Fields Beneath
  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Kentish Town
  • price 1 of 4

Taking its name from a classic book on Kentish Town local history, this tiny neighbourhood drop-in is an enduring hit with caffeine-loving locals. TFB is now totally vegan, so everything from the milk to the dhal to the cookies. Inside, there’s just one long(ish) table for communal sipping, but ample space for take outs – all very handy for commuters spilling out from the station next door.

Flotsam & Jetsam
  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Wandsworth

Forget beachcombing, this oddly named Antipodean-style café by Wandsworth Common is all about healthy eats and artisan drinks. Expect everything from coco-bircher muesli and American-style pancakes to chorizo scramble and eggs benedict with espresso brown butter hollandaise, plus some inviting cakes and pastries. Drinks, meanwhile, range from Allpress coffee and Edgcumbes teas to turmeric chai, matcha lattes, Karma colas, Belleville beer and much else besides. The owners also run occasional coffee courses for wannabe baristas.

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  • Cafés
  • Highbury
  • price 1 of 4

It’s all about homely comforts at Highness Café, a quaint family-run tearoom and cake shop with mismatched wooden tables, pretty china crockery and a menu that’s written on a chalkboard above the counter. Expect the likes of thick peanut butter brownies, iced blood-orange cakes and plump sultana scones, plus decent coffee and freshly blitzed juices served in trendy mason jars. Grab one of the in-demand window seats downstairs or head up to the mezzanine.

Juliets Quality Food
  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Tooting
  • price 1 of 4

A younger sister to Balham’s cult local hangout Milk, this deliciously retro-cool Antipodean joint is calmer and more grown-up than the original – with toned-down music and a more family-orientated vibe. Formerly called Milk Teeth, everyone comes for coffee and brunch. Try the Young Betty (a take on eggs Benedict with sourdough rather than a muffin) or a slice of moist, fluffy banana bread with your chosen brew. Breezy young Aussie staff are as warm as can be.

 

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Loft Coffee Company
  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Finchley Road

Diminutive in stature but huge in quality, this dinky coffee shop from Seoul-born Sungjae Lee is all about well-sourced espresso and its brewed derivatives, with beans from trusted names such as Square Mile. Backup comes from a modest assortment of pleasing pastries and other edible bits ’n’ pieces – including brunch at the weekends. It also has an unusual range of kombucha drinks. Handily placed next to Finchley Road tube.

  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Old Street

Whether you’re on two wheels, on four wheels or on foot, this friendly hangout attached to a bicycle repair shop is a terrific pitstop. Solid fuel comes from burgers, meze plates, toasties and the like, although the hottest ticket is breakfast. To drink, there is coffee, but there are also beers like Beavertown Neck Oil and cold-pressed juices. All-comers park up here and the whole place is a joy with its knowledgeable baristas, full-time mechanics and pretty courtyard.

 

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  • Portobello Road
  • price 1 of 4

A tiny, eccentrically decorated place with total commitment to quality across the board, Lowry & Baker on Portobello Road is a local godsend, with a couple of hotplates behind the cake-laden counter doing duty as a kitchen. The food (including the popular build-your-own breakfast) is served on a delightful jumble of unmatched crockery, although the perfectly brewed coffee – made using beans from Monmouth – always comes in well-warmed white cups.

  • Restaurants
  • Coffeeshops
  • Camberwell

Coffee, craftsmanship and community come together at Lumberjack, a dinky Camberwell café stuffed full of hand-printed tea towels, ceramic mugs and craft furniture. Naturally, this ethos extends to the coffee and tea (from Brixton-based Assembly and Good & Proper respectively), while the food is honest-to-goodness artisan stuff: soups, sharing boards, salads, and fancy cakes. Local mums, freelancers and art students love the vibe.

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Milk
  • Restaurants
  • Australian
  • Balham
  • price 1 of 4

Still the place to be seen for breakfast or brunch in Balham, this achingly fashionable café is run by a bevy smiling staff who serve up tongue-in-cheek twists on the old favourites, plus some unusual items such as confit duck rillettes on toast with burnt grape agridulce, elderberry and strawberry umeboshi. Coffee provides a good caffeine kick (Workshop features among its suppliers), while a playlist of the owners’ favourite records adds to the feelgood vibe.

  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Borough
  • price 1 of 4

Monmouth is the grandmama of high-class coffee in London, and its pitch at the southern end of Borough Market is always heaving. There’s nothing flashy or trendy about its offer, but everything screams quality – from the artisan authenticity of the food (breads, pastries etc) to the enthusiasm of the expertly trained staff. Espresso and its derivatives are properly made, but brewed coffee (from the company’s outstanding range) is the real star. Also try Monmouth’s original shop in Covent Garden and its Bermondsey offshoot.

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Old Spike Roastery
  • Restaurants
  • Coffeeshops
  • Peckham

Peckham’s coffee roastery started in 2014 but soon opened its doors to enthusiastic coffee-loving locals who still drop by for that freshly roasted espresso experience, interesting filter brews and seasonal, single-origin beans. Artisan hot chocolate and teas from Good & Proper are also on offer, but why pick anything else when the coffee’s this good? Old Spike has a social conscience too, training and employing homeless people across its business.

Ozone Coffee
  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Shoreditch

A major hit with office workers around Silicon Roundabout, Kiwi-owned Ozone made a big deal of its ‘sustainable whole-cycle cooking’ from the very start and it’s become more serious with time. We also like its coffee: brewed, slow-brewed or single-origin Balmaadi espresso from Tamil Nadu in India. Also check the brew bar for more specialist sips. Ozone’s popularity has risen stratospherically – it’s crowded upstairs, but easier downstairs. There’s a cash-free offshoot in Bethnal Green.

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  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Holborn
  • price 1 of 4

Renowned for its devotion to artisan coffee, this spacious and bright café is one of London’s best and is equally distinguished when it comes to hand-brewed filter-type options or espresso (beans come from Square Mile and other famous roasters). Food-wise, expect classic upscale brunch fare, although Prufrock really scores with its homemade cakes – check out the counter display. Weekday trade is guaranteed, but this is also a serious destination for caffeine enthusiasts on worker-free Saturdays.

  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Soho

A laidback Soho haven with some of the nicest staff around, Rapha proves there’s more to the cycling-coffee pairing than Lance Armstrong-style performance enhancement. The Clubhouse café occupies half the space in a smart cycle clothing shop, with ample seating, cycling memorabilia and a menu that’s a cut above – don’t miss the elaborate super smoothies. As for the coffee, knowledgeable baristas talk you through the process, including where the beans came from. There’s an offshoot in Spitalfields.

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  • New Cross

The new-build exterior and backstreet New Cross location might not scream ‘destination’ but the Red Lion Coffee Co is a sterling spot populated by a suitably arty crowd. The food is varied (everything from pastries to bowls of stew), there’s coffee-making gadgetry for sale and the beans come from Climpson & Sons. RLCC is licensed, so you can also quench your thirst with a pint of The Kernel Table Beer or a glass of Tempranillo.

Stir Coffee
  • Restaurants
  • Coffeeshops
  • Brixton

Properly passionate about coffee, this cheery corner café in Brixton is the real deal with its single-estate beans and global guests brewed up with just the right amount of obsession. Big windows let in lots of light, while the back room has all the hipster trimmings (bare bricks, bare light bulbs and so on). Over-the-counter food includes brioche buns stuffed with bacon and brie, quiches, pastries and gluten-free cakes.

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The Wren Coffee
  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • St Paul’s

Although the Wren church of St Nicholas Cole Abbey was blitzed during WWII, it’s still a striking spot, especially if you’re after some relaxation and a shot of heavenly espresso in a busy City precinct. Simple lunchtime sustenance features soup, salads, quiches and home-baked cakes. Coffee comes from Caravan Roasters, tea from the Brew Tea Co – so quality is assured. Note that the café closes every Thursday from 12.55pm to 2pm to host St Nick’s lunchtime talks.

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